Customs and Border Protection said Sunday that it deployed tear gas at migrants trying to come across the border at the San Ysidro crossing because “several migrants threw projectiles at the agents.”
Reports from the scene showed men, women and children among canisters spewing tear gas. The group of about 500 Central American migrants rushed toward the border fence after Mexican police broke up a daily protest from the caravan, which included migrants who have been camping in Tijuana chanting “we aren’t criminals” and “we are hard workers.”
“They want us to wait in Mexico but I for one am desperate. My little girl is sick and I don’t even have money for milk,” Joseph Garcia, 32, of Honduras told Reuters. “I can’t stand it anymore.”
CBP closed the busy border crossing in both directions at about 11:30 a.m.; it remained shut for several hours at the end of the holiday weekend. Massive lines were reported at the closest border crossing, Otay Mesa.
“In preparation for multiple planned demonstrations on both sides of the border, CBP had deployed additional personnel to the San Ysidro port of entry on Sunday. As the demonstrations on the Mexican side reached the border area, some members of the demonstration split off to head towards multiple locations along the border. Some attempted to enter the U.S. both directly east and west of the border crossing. These attempts to illegally enter the U.S., and the response to them continue. Some attempted to illegally enter the U.S. through both the northbound and southbound vehicles lanes at the port of entry itself. Those persons were stopped and turned back to Mexico,” CBP said in a statement.
“To prepare for the possibility that additional groups would also break off from demonstrations for a possible attempt or attempts to rush illegally through the port of entry, CBP suspended operations at the port of entry.”
CBP tweeted that “Border Patrol agents deployed tear gas to dispel the group because of the risk to agents’ safety. Several agents were hit by the projectiles.”
U.S. Northern Command said in a statement that “Department of Defense military personnel will not be conducting law enforcement functions, but are authorized to provide force protection for Customs and Border Protection personnel.”